Written by Nandini Sethi
On a rainy Tuesday night, I heard something strange for the first time. I tried to ignore it,
but the constant thuds were getting unbearable. In the dark house of my late parents, I kept an eye out for any intruder. I was feigning bravery; but the eerie sounds of the wind sent shivers down my back.
Tip-toeing my way to the kitchen, I let the light from the refrigerator fill up the house. With a bat in my hand and a nervous grimace on my face, I crept back into my bedroom. There, was waiting for me Sara, my childhood friend. We both crept under the blankets, waiting for the lights to come back on, or for my grandfather to return from his evening stroll in the park. It was already 8:00 PM and the ghostly silence in the neighbourhood did nothing to calm us down.
Suddenly, we heard a loud thud! Come from the window closest to the main door. Both Sara and I screamed, hiding further under the blankets as if that would protect us from a killer. For the seventeenth time that night, I phoned my grandpa, but he didn’t answer.
Sara was on the verge of tears, and I tried to console her, but to no avail. I decided to head downstairs to the security and ask them when electricity was to return; the only problem being it was dreadfully dark down the flight of stairs and the pelting of stones on my window were freaking me out.
Somehow, I mustered the courage and walked towards the hallway. A deafening ding dong made me flinch and break out into a cold sweat. Luckily, before I could scream and run, I heard my grandfather call out, “Sweetie, open the door! It’s me!”
I scrambled towards the main door and despite my disorientation, I somehow managed to fling the door open and pounce on my grandpa.
“You have no idea how scared I was!” I screeched, narrating the events of the whole night to him in a haste.
In his calm demeanour, he sat me down, stroked my hair and gave me his signature collected smile. He looked like the moon when he smiled – glowing and peaceful. Within a minute I gathered my thoughts and started breathing at a normal pace again. I was about to bring up the fact that someone was throwing stones at our house, but I was interrupted by the electricity coming back and light illuminating the entire house.
Sara came running out of the room to hug me, and we both decided on having burgers that night, because we deserved them after such a scary experience. Since her parents were away for the week, she was staying with me and grandpa. The three of us had been an iconic trio ever since my grandma passed away, and without us realizing, she kind of came to be the missing piece in our broken family. We were happy.
The next night, the same thing happened. Grandpa left for his walk, while Sara and I lay on the couch, watching reality TV. First, we heard the stones crash on the glass window. I gave Sara one look and that was enough to make her teary again. “Sara, can you for once in your life, please, get it together?!” I tried to shake her out of her daze.
This time we decided not to behave like cowards. From the kitchen, we slid out our sturdiest steel pan, and from the storeroom, our hefty wooden baseball bat.
“Sara, should we-”, before I could complete my sentence, the lights went out with a bzz. Again, the pelting continued.
Holding hands, we walked towards the door, right by the window, and stealthily, hiding behind the paper-thin curtain, we tried to make out a figure that was responsible for this. In one fast motion, I undid the curtain, and put forward my face. But there was nothing.
The night was getting darker by the minute: from dusky, to a deep blue, and now to a jet black. There wasn’t a single star in the sky, and even though we lived in the city, it felt like we could hear wolves howl in the distance.
We stood in silence, contemplating our next move, when we heard the pelting start from another window, the one in the bedroom. Slowly, we tip-toed towards the bedroom. Two minutes later, the sound moved back to the front door.
In my frustration, I screamed. “If you want to kill us, why don’t you just show yourself?” I cried. I heard a huge rock ramming into the glass window in the bedroom and shattering it into a million pieces. I genuinely believed Sara was going to faint, she was as pale as a ghost.
For some reason, my frustration had taken over fear. I just wanted to confront the killer and put an end to this whole thing. Clearly, that was not the case with Sara. So, I walked alone, towards the room, and analysed the broken glass on the floor. The first thought that came to me was – man, who’s going to clean this up? But then something else caught my attention. On the piece of rock that lay abandoned on the ground, I could see an unintelligible scribble of letters. Getting closer to it, almost hesitantly, I picked it up and read the contents: Do you really want me to show myself?
The pin-drop silence was almost chaotic; I could hear my nervous gulp. In the dead of the night, I heard a bang come from the living room, and I almost tripped on my own feet in a scramble to get there.
But what I saw was so underwhelming, I didn’t know how to react. Grandpa was standing with a stricken-looking Sara, as he held onto her and stroked her hair in the same way he did mine the day before.
“Grandpa! Someone broke the window, I didn’t know what to do – you have to come take a look”, I cried out.
He nodded solemnly and followed me inside. Sara was still standing in the living room, and from the looks of it, she could get sick any minute. Grandpa bent down to pick up the rock, studied it for a moment, before handing it to me.
Holding on to it, once again I started analysing the words. Grandpa knew I was tense, so he hugged from the side, his broad arms enveloping my back in a tight grip. I couldn’t deny it was comforting.
Still gazing at the rock, I wondered what clue I could draw. I was looking at it for so long that it almost felt like the letters were changing from block to cursive. Then back again. Blinking hastily, I wanted to slap myself for being so ignorant – I could recognize that handwriting anywhere.
With a shudder I looked up, locking eyes with Sara, who just nodded, almost in slow motion. Suddenly, the hug didn’t feel so comforting anymore. In fact, it was too tight. I tried to move away, but he didn’t budge.
In a low whisper I spoke, “grandpa?”
He didn’t say anything.
For a moment nothing happened. Then it all happened too fast. He snatched the rock from me as I screamed for help. The lights went out again, then Sara screamed.
In the blinding dark, my senses heightened, I could hear every footstep loud and clear, I backed away from the approaching ones of an old man getting too close.
He laughed. “Sweetheart, I already warned you, do you really want me to show myself?”